Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Week 17: Off to St. Louis

This week was consumed with either preparing for or intensely living the 2015 FIRST World Championship.

Monday, when the parents and mentors met there was an exciting reveal--all the money was in for the trip!

Tuesday they put decals on the trailer and packed all the equipment.

Wednesday very early we boarded the LightRider double decker bus. The plan, as we traveled in the bus each day, was to have Mike share reflections on life. His first talk was titled "Breaking the Mold" about how his own ambitions to become an astronautical engineer took a different direction when challenged by college chapel speakers from Operation Mobilization.

We arrived safely shortly after noon and had a tour of the St. Louis Christian College where we stayed for three nights.

The event was held in the Edward Jones Dome, an enormous stadium set up with eight playing fields for simultaneous qualification matches. Our team played in Newton.

In this aerial view of St. Louis (borrowed from Google images) you can see the dome on the middle left and next to it an L-shape building, the America's Center, where the 600+ pits were set up.

The drive team and pit crew had a busy afternoon: unpack the trailer and set up the pit; make adjustments and add the improvements to the robot; have it inspected. If possible they would have opportunity to test the robot on the practice field before their one practice match on the Newton field. As it turned out the line was too long so they were unable to test the robot.

"Not Yet" and the ME and lead mentor; PhyXTGears pit (above right); judges talking to the drive team (below right)
Robot "guts"
The complexity of the inner workings of the robot blew my mind, and so did the enormity of the stadium.

The day before we left, I had a request from a former Doulos girl who joined a few months before we left the ship:
"Estoy buscando una persona que haya trabajado en OM para escribir unas palabras de introducción a mi librito."
(Would you be willing to write an introduction to my book?) 
I accepted the challenge. She emailed the document immediately. For two days, between matches, I was enthralled reading her stories and reliving our own experiences on the M/V Doulos.

Meanwhile. . .
--Recycle Rush was in progress: robots "can burglaring" (stealing RC's, recycle cans, from the center platform); stacking totes six-high with an RC on top; the human player throwing "litter" (pool noodles) on the opponents side and/or placing one in each RC.
--announcers enthusiastically retelling the moves, pointing out strategies or spills.
--teams cheering loudly.
Multiply all of the above by eight = one loud noisy stadium.

Each team played ten qualifying matches during the two days in randomly selected alliances.
PhyXTGears played four on Thursday and six on Friday always adjusting strategy in accordance with the varying strengths of the alliance partners. Once we were very fortunate to be allied with #1 and #2 seeded teams and get the highest two-day score.

By the end of qualifying matches, we were sixth out of 76 teams in our field and therefore in a position to choose alliance partners for the playoffs.

Jeremiah, one of the drivers, wearing the team captain hat, chose alliance teams based on the hard work of the scouting team and their careful analyses the night before. Unfortunately, the favored teams were taken by the time it was his turn to pick.

Above: Jeremiah, team captain; Captain +1
Below:Captain +2; Captain +3, discussing strategy

Above:Opening ceremony; drive team setting up robot for a match; the finals fiesta!

We never imagined we'd make it to State, much less to Worlds, and then to finish seventh--unthinkable!

On the way home I shared "Seafaring Stories" and threw in stories of how Mike and I met.
All in all it was a wonderful adventure and team-bonding experience. We are feeling very grateful, and tired! It was 3:30 Sunday morning when we finally arrived home. Now, I must recover from the sore throat and cold. And Michael still has bouts of immobilizing hip pain that plagued him during the event. The long distance he had to walk between the stands and the pits brought it on every time and became more frequent and intense. He practically lived on Ibuprofen. It is the same mysterious pain he had after surgery last year, but now on the other side.

Coming back we faced some serious realities of life on the home-front, like a valley after the exhilirating mountain-top.


Kimberly Hoyt said...

What an amazing experience! Not just for you and Mike, but for the kids on the team -- it has to have had a huge impact on their lives. Love that you and Mike were able to share with the group on the way there and back. What a privilege!

Is author Dora from Spain? Argentina? Another Spanish speaking country?

Praying you and Mike both recover quickly, both from the exhausting week and your other health issues.

The Bug said...

What a fabulous experience for that team! I'm so glad that the community helped make it happen for them - & that they did so well!

Hope by now you're both feeling MUCH better!